MLB, ASA/USA Softball host OKC Play Ball event

Gathering of almost 250 kids serves as announcement of partnership to support initiative

MLB, ASA/USA Softball host OKC Play Ball event

Kelan Jackson immediately took the challenge. His hand shot in the air. The fifth-grader from Spring Creek Elementary in Oklahoma City had a question for Team USA softball pitcher Jessica Moore.

"When you played, did you ever do anything wrong, or, like, embarrassing?" he asked. 

Moore, entering her fourth season on the national team, smiled brightly and then laughed as she told of her own miscue.

"Such a great question. Yes, yes, I was most embarrassed once when I went into my windmill and the ball just flew out my hand behind me," she said, turning around as if that ball would still be there. "That was very embarrassing."

Moore and former Team USA teammate Destinee Martinez were at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City as Major League Baseball and the Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball jointly hosted almost 250 kids in a Play Ball event at the home of the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Oklahoma City event was an extension of the Play Ball initiative, which launched in 2015 as the sport's largest effort to encourage widespread participation in both formal and casual baseball and softball activities. It also served to announce a partnership between MLB and ASA/USA Softball to support the Play Ball initiative going forward.

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"It's a great partnership because we have the same goals," said Craig Cress, executive director of ASA/USA Softball, the national governing body for softball. "It's great to get more kids out to play our bat-and-ball sports and an opportunity to showcase our sport and association. The Commissioner is looking for ways to get kids more interested in the sport, and it works well for us."

ASA/USA Softball will help promote Play Ball throughout 70 local organizations across the United States as well as assist MLB and its clubs in conducting softball series through various associations.

"I think this partnership is going to be great," Moore said. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you live or where you're from, these kinds of events kind of show that anybody can play. You just have to come and try it."

Oklahoma City was the perfect venue for the event and the announcement because less than five miles away at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, the NCAA Women's College World Series is being played this week to a packed house and a national television audience.

"Obviously, kicking this off in conjunction with the softball College World Series was a perfect storm," said David James, vice president of youth programs for MLB. "Support from the Oklahoma City Dodgers and other entities here, we are very excited about this portion and the outreach to girls as part of the overall effort."

The 250 children came in from local youth organizations and took part in multiple drills, including a home run derby, agility, hit and run, running the bases and a Q&A with Moore. Volunteers from ASA/USA Softball, local high school teams and even Mick Cornett, the mayor of OKC, made sure it ran smoothly.

"Mayors across the country understand the commitment that Major League Baseball and now USA Softball have made to the effort," said Cornett, who next month becomes head of the Council of Mayors. "There is not a city or community across the country that does not have some level of baseball or softball going on. We want to encourage the kids to get out and do more of this."

This was a unique Play Ball event in that it took place on a field where professional baseball is played, and OKC Dodgers president Michael Byrnes was glad to help. 

"It was a great way to celebrate the association of Play Ball with youth baseball and youth softball," he said. "It was a neat way to spend our day."